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Polley, Dr. Clayton Leslie “Doc” & Gertrude Kaarin “Sally” (Waltonen)

by Patty Ann Polley

Clayton Polley grew up in Juneau, graduating from Juneau High School in 1925, and from the North Pacific Dental College in Portland in 1929.

Doc’s first dental practice was in LeGrande, Oregon. As this was the height of the Depression, he always said he couldn’t pay his bills with the eggs, chickens and produce that he received in payment for his work. He decided to move back to Alaska and practiced dentistry in Skagway from 1932 to 1947.

Doc and Gertrude Kaarin “Sally” Waltonen had both attended school in Juneau and she graduated from Juneau High School in 1927. They were married in Juneau at the Episcopal Church on December 21, 1933. Sally remembered that it was cold with the wind howling and that they spent their wedding night with her in-laws in the 12th Street house.

Doc and Sally moved to Skagway following their wedding and Doc opened his dental office in a building that was the Pinnel Mission. He had his dental office upstairs and the family lived downstairs. In 1936, their first child, Ernest Edward, was born. He was followed by Roger York in 1937. The Polley family lived in Skagway until 1947, when they moved back to Juneau and purchased a house on 11th Street.

While in Skagway, Doc did the Army dental work at Chilkoot Barracks in Haines and served the town of Haines. He also did contract dental work for the BIA at Klukwan, Haines and Yakutat until 1942. While in Skagway, Doc served as the School Board President for six years and three years on the City Council. He was president of the Skagway Chamber of Commerce for two years and secretary-treasurer for three years. During World War II, Doc was captain of the Territorial Guard unit in Skagway. He was president of the Eagles Lodge, and organized and played in a dance band called the Glacier Bugs.

During her Skagway years, Sally was involved with the Skagway Women’s Club, PTA and Presbyterian Church Auxiliary. On their return to Juneau, Sally served as a Cub Scout den mother, a volunteer at the Juneau Health Center and for the American Cancer Society. She was active in the Juneau chapter of the American Red Cross in Home Services and Grey Ladies Hospital Service. She continued her involvement with the PTA, Republican Women’s Club, Republican Party and Pioneers Auxiliary No. 6, Juneau.

Following their move back to Juneau in 1947, Doc served on the Executive Board of the Alaska TB Association and American Cancer Society until both organizations moved their headquarters to Anchorage.

Doc was a charter member and helped organize the Alaska Dental Society and served as its first elected president in 1951, and as its secretary-treasurer from 1956-1959. He was an active member of the Episcopal Church serving on the Vestry as Warden for several years, and chair of the building committee when the church was enlarged and McPhetres Hall constructed.

Doc was active in the Republican party and served as chair of the 4th Legislative District for several years. In 1971, he was honored to cast one of Alaska’s Electoral College votes for Richard Nixon.

He was a life member of Elks, Pioneers Igloo No. 6, Juneau, the Territorial Sportsmen and the Outdoor Council.

Following Doc’s retirement, he and Sally enjoyed their large flower and vegetable garden at their home at Lena Point. He continued his activities after his retirement by working for the development of senior citizen housing which became the Fireweed Place.

Doc died in 1996 at age 88, and Sally resides in the Juneau Pioneers Home.

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